Bell's palsy is an unexplained episode of facial muscle weakness or paralysis. This type of condition begins suddenly and get worsens over 48 hours. It results from damage to the facial nerve. Generally, pain and discomfort occur on one side of the face or head.
Bell’s palsy can happen to anyone irrespective of age. Mostly, it occurs in pregnant women, and people who are having diabetes, influenza, a cold, or another upper respiratory ailment. Bell's palsy affects men and woman equally. It is less common before age 15 or after age 60.
Bell's palsy is not considered permanent, but in rare cases, it does not go. At present, there is still no known cure to treat Bell's palsy although, recovery generally begins 2 weeks to 6 months from the onset of the symptoms. Most people suffering with Bell's palsy recover full facial strength and expression.
What causes Bell's palsy?
The cause of Bell's palsy is still unknown. Bell's palsy is sometimes associated with the following:
- High blood pressure
- Lyme disease
- Guillain-Barré syndrome
- Myasthenia gravis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Infection, especially following a viral infection with Herpes simplex virus (a virus that is related to the cause of the common "cold sores" of the mouth)
How is Bell's palsy diagnosed?
Generally, your doctor can diagnose Bell’s palsy by looking at your symptoms. There are no specific tests available that can be used to diagnose Bell’s palsy.
Although your doctor may order some tests to rule out other conditions that causes similar symptoms and to determine the extent of nerve involvement or damage. These tests may include:
- Electromyography (EMG) to know the extent of the nerve involvement
- Blood tests to identify if another condition such as diabetes or Lyme disease is present
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) to know if there is a structural cause for your symptoms.
It is important that your doctor extracts the presence of a stroke or tumor that can cause symptoms similar to Bell’s palsy.
What are the symptoms of Bell's palsy?
Some of the most common symptoms of Bell's palsy are:
- Irregular movement of the muscles that control facial expressions, such as smiling, squinting, blinking, or closing the eyelid
- Loss of feeling in the face
- Unable to close the eye on the affected side of the face
How is Bell's palsy treated?
If a certain cause for Bell’s palsy is found, like infection, that cause will be treated. Otherwise, the symptoms are treated as needed.
One recommended treatment for Bell's palsy is protecting the eye from drying at night or while working at a computer.
Eye care should be provided which may include eye drops during the day, ointment at bedtime, or a moisture chamber at night. This helps in protecting the cornea from being scratched, which is crucial to the management of Bell's palsy.
Your doctor will recommend other treatment for your condition depending upon the severity of your symptoms and your health history. Other treatment options include:
- Steroids to reduce inflammation
- Antiviral medicine, such as acyclovir
- Analgesics or moist heat to relieve pain
- Physical therapy to stimulate the facial nerve
Few people looks to choose alternative therapies for the treatment of Bell's palsy, but there is no evidence they make a difference in recovery. Such treatment may include:
- Electrical stimulation
- Biofeedback training
- Vitamin therapy, including B12, B6, and the mineral zinc